Sunday, November 14, 2010

When West went wet

A friend recently asked me to look into the story of how the Portage Trust, the local liquor licensing trust for Avondale, Blockhouse Bay, New Lynn  and surrounds, was started.

In 1909, when we were part of the Eden electorate and John Bollard was our MP, the electorate voted to go dry. All hotels in the area were shut down, including the Avondale Hotel, the last day of trading and the doors to the pub closing on 30 June 1910, at 10 pm. From that point on -- Avondale was dry. This affected the Avondale Jockey Club, intimately associated with the Hotel in the beginning and earning quite a few bob off the thirst of the punters at the course.

Tales abound from the dry years of jockeys slaking their thirst under the racecourse grandstands, and rum being secreted into billiard saloons in the guise of a certain dark-coloured soft drink of note.

Now, I don't know if what happened at the course affected the events which followed in the 1960s, but in April 1961, after a special amendment to the Liquor Licensing Act, Avondale Jockey Club were permitted to open up three bars on course.

Liquor will be sold to the public at the Avondale Jockey Club meeting on Saturday for the first time for 50 years ... In a new bar called the Garden Bar one part will be restrivted to members, wives and escorts, and the other open to the public. There will be a bar under the public stand (for enclosure patrons) and another large bar on the outside area of the course.

The Garden Bar, a beer garden, provides seating for about 600 and standing room for a further 400.

The president of the club, Mr Alf Bevege, said today "I think this is the first time liquor will be sold freely to the public in a no licence area. Charters have no doubt been issued in the past, but I cannot recall any case similar to ours at Avondale." Mr Bevege said the club had been trying for some years to sell liquor at Avondale.

On the passing of the Licensing Act amendment, he said, "It was a non party vote, and I understand that the licence was granted unanimously."
(Auckland Star, 21 April 1961)

New Lynn solicitor Mick Shanahan campaigned in 1963 for restoration of the wet area (my mum recalled that he also led the charge against the 6 o'clock swill). There was a public meeting in 1966 and a campaign for restoration during the general election that year, but the referendum didn't reach the required 60% majority. However, after three more years campaigning, they succeeded in 1969, sixty years after the dry-area election.

A brewery company wanted to have the licence for the Kawakawa Hotel transferred to Rosebank in 1970. This annoyed the supporters of Trust control, the Trust Promotion Committee, who went to the Supreme Court, represented by Dr Martyn Finlay (later Labour Minister of Justice in 1973). They won the case, a vote was called for, and in a 1971 referendum won support for Trust control.

The Trust Promotion Committee and Trusts Association wanted one unified Trust covering West Auckland and Mt Albert, but boundaries were set and three Trusts formed: Waitakere (6 licences), Portage (10 licences) and Mt Albert (1 licence). The first Trust Board election was in October 1972. The inaugural meeting of the Portage Trust, with 10 members on the Board was on 9 November 1972 (so in two years time it will be the Trust's 40th anniversary). Much of the above information came from an article in the Western Leader, 20 November 1973.


  1. Melbourne still has a couple of dry suburbs in its bible belt. Every time a restaurant opens and wants to serve liquor, the local citizens have to vote. A vote was taken perhaps ten years ago about getting rid of the liquor ban, and it was defeated. Liquor licensing laws were responsible for the destruction of many fine Melbourne city hotels at the time of the 1956 Olympics held here.

  2. As I think I understand it, if a restaurant wants to serve liquor, they obtain a license from the Council, but a store selling liquor in our area has to be licensed by the Trust.

    I'm not much of a drinker myself, but I know the laws here, while seemingly liberal, can also be fiendishly complex and costly.